Friday, July 24, 2015

Sons and Daughters of Douglass Board Meeting on Saturday

The Sons and Daughters will have a meeting on July 25, 2015. The meeting will start at 1:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the V. O. Dobbins, Sr Complex. We will be meeting in the Eastman Board Room.


Douglas S. Releford

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Information about the Great Golden Gathering 2015

UPDATED 8/5/15

Word is getting around about the big reunion between all the former African-American high schools later this summer.

People are getting excited about commemorating the 50th anniversary of the closing of the schools, with an historic event called the "Great Golden Gathering - 2015," that remembers the good times and the wonderful educations we and our ancestors received, from the best schools in the region.

The Organizational Committee made up of representatives from the various alumni groups has been been meeting since March 7th, discussing ways to make the Great Golden Gathering memorable for both the schools' alumni, their descendants, and their respective communities.  There were 15 former African-American schools from Knoxville through the Tri-Cities into Southwest Virginia.  Although there are some alumni organizations that have not been directly involved, nonetheless they are still included because, by default, they are one of the African-American schools.  Pray, the Organizational Committee does not want to leave any alumni associations out, and any schools not contacted yet, are encouraged to please join the Committee.  All opinions and suggestions are welcome.  There are no bad ideas...  all are suggestions to help make the Big Reunion a big success.


Most of the beloved schools closed for integration in 1965 (Swift in 1963, and Douglass-Kingsport 1966), and their combined alumni associations are planning a huge and historic reunion, to reconnect former students who interacted athletically, academically and socially when those schools were the backbone of our communities.  These were 15 African-American schools with fine teachers, who instructed us with loving care.  These schools were the solid rocks of our communities, and by the grace of God, all or most are still standing today.  Many are used as offices, some are community centers much like their roles of yesteryear, some are apartments, but some are empty shells.  Sadly, a few are in fear of the wrecking ball. 


The historic "Great Golden Gathering - 2015" will be Friday August 28, Saturday August 29, and Sunday August 30, 2015.  The location will be the Holiday Inn-Bristol Convention Center, 3005 Linden Drive, Bristol, VA 24202.  The phone number is (276) 466-4100.  We have a special discounted room rate for folks who are spending the night (s).. just mention that you're attending the "Great Golden Gathering - 2015" and you'll get the special room rate.


Bristol Holiday Inn - Bristol Conference Center
3005 Linden Avenue
Bristol, VA 24202
(276) 466-4100
(800) 315-2621

Room rate for the Great Golden Gathering 2015 is $89.00 per night for a single/2 queen beds room.


From the South End of Bristol, these are directions for coming up I-81 from the I-26 junction, beginning at Mile Marker 57:

Coming up I-81, at Mile Marker 75, cross into Virginia.

In Virginia, TAKE Exit 7 (Old Airport Road-Bonham Road)---you'll actually pass the big Holiday Inn on the left, right beside the freeway.

Go to the red light, and TURN LEFT.

Go under the freeway, through the next red light, go past the IHOP sign on the left, and CROSS the little bridge.

Avenue (watch for the big "Bristol Commons" store signs and also the road construction there).

Go to the end of Linden Avenue, and the Holiday Inn-Conference Center is on the left---the biggest
building around.)


From the north end of Bristol, these are directions for coming down I-81:

Coming down I-81 South, TAKE exit 7 (Old Airport Road-Bonham Road).

At the end of the exit ramp at the red light, TURN RIGHT.  Go past the IHOP sign on the left and CROSS the little bridge.

TURN LEFT AT THE NEXT STREET onto Linden Avenue (watch for the big Bristol Commons store signs, and also the road construction there).

Go to the end of Linden Avenue, and the Holiday Inn-Conference Center is on the left -- the biggest building around).


Plans are for a meet-and-greet session for all the alumni on Friday the 28th.... fun and games, and/or a picnic with school displays of memorabilia on Saturday afternoon the 29th.... a huge banquet event with speakers on Saturday night the 29th.... and a special church service on Sunday the 30th.  Events on any given day are subject to change and modification. 


The cost to attend is $100 dollars per person, with a $25 dollar non-refundable deposit that helps us secure the venue, food accomodations, entertainment, etc.  The $25 dollar deposit will be deducted from the $100 dollars, leaving only a balance of $75 dollars per person.  The entire $100 is due by August 15th.   Please make your check out to "Great Golden Gathering 2015" and mail it to Great Golden Gathering - 2015, c/o Barbara Watterson, 810 North Hill Drive, Johnson City, TN 37604.  Your name (s) will be placed on the master list, to be checked off on the day of registration, and you will be given an arm band to wear, guaranteeing your admittance to the individual events of the big Reunion.


100% of your registration fee goes to fund the Great Golden Gathering 2015.  The event is open only to alumni of the 15 former African-American schools of upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and/or their descendants.

Individual events like the Banquet are not separated from the rest of the Reunion, i.e. no individual tickets for the Banquet will be sold.  Admittance is by pre-registration only.  This is only fair to those alumni who have already pre-registered.


We have invited the Reverend Jesse Jackson to speak at the banquet program, and he has graciously accepted the invitation and will be with us in Bristol on Saturday night.  Also attending will be Mrs. Gloria Sweet-Love, the president of the Tennessee NAACP.  Both will speak to the legacies of the African-American schools from Knoxville to Tri-Cities and into Southwest Virginia.  We have extended an invitation to the Honorable John Lewis of Georgia to attend and speak at the banquet program, and are hoping he can fit our event into his busy schedule..  Both Congressman Lewis and Rev. Jackson are Civil Rights icons, and both marched on either side of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Congressman Lewis, along with Hosea Williams led a peaceful group of 600 protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama 50 years ago who were marching for voting rights and were met by state troopers with batons and billy clubs.  The confrontation is forever known as "Bloody Sunday."  The Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition's Operation Push has always and still continues to seek justice and equality for the disadvantaged and people of color.  Reverend Jackson has long been the man whose mediation efforts have led to great compromise among differing factions; hence his status as "The Great Unifier."

We plan to honor these three Civil Rights pioneers during the banquet for their diligence, guidance, gentle patience and immeasurable contributions to the Civil Rights Movement.  During a ceremony fitting of this monumental occasion, all three will be presented with a memorable trophy, on behalf of a respectful and grateful alumni gathering.  We pray that Congressman Lewis' schedule will allow him to attend.

Our committees are working on the programs for this historic one-of-a-kind event, including souvenir programs and historic commemorative tee-shirts that can be purchased, along with grab-bags full of free items.  We are also looking for corporate sponsorships to handle certain aspects of the event.  The banquet will be fitting tributes to the legacies of the finest schools in the region. 


The 50th anniversary of any event is special.  These were African-American schools with fine teachers, who instructed us with care and prepared us for the unknown.. a world struggling to accept us as the intelligent people we are.  Our most important Big Reunion goal is to pass this part of our histories to our young people, to pick up the charge and carry the banners of our schools into the next generation.  Our alumni numbers at all of our our beloved schools is dwindling fast, and we don't have a moment to lose.  The Great Golden Gathering - 2015 may be the last and only time that all of us can be together to celebrate the one thing that binds us all.. our friendships and our common school bonds.


For more information, contact the Organizational Committee at or calling Calvin Sneed at (423) 847-5139.

Please put the historic Great Golden Gathering event on your late August calendar.  We may not have another chance at history.

                                               SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA

Bland High School, Big Stone Gap, VA (Central High School & Appalachia Training School)
Douglass High School, Bristol, VA
Slater High School, Bristol, TN
Douglas High School, Elizabethton, TN
Douglass High School, Kingsport, TN
Langston High School, Johnson City, TN
Swift College High School, Rogersville, TN
Arty-Lee High School, Dante, VA
George Clem High School, Greeneville, TN
Morristown College West High School, Morristown, TN
Tanner High School, Newport, TN
Nelson-Merry High School, Jefferson City, TN
Austin High School, Knoxville, Tn

....And all of the associated African-American Elementary Schools in the area, who graduated  students to attend these distinguished High Schools....

Friday, July 10, 2015

One Of Our Own Returns Home Tonight for Fun Fest!

Kingsport Fun Fest
Broad Street Boogie featuring the Scat Springs Band

8 PM Friday (tonight)

Dance the night away after the Fun Fest Parade ends on Broad Street at Glen Bruce Park!

Sponsored by: Pal's Sudden Service, Kingsport CVB, Eastman Credit Union, Eastman, VIP Seen Magazine, Tusculum College, Marsh Regional Blood Center, The Nutty Java, FM 101.5, NASH FM 104.9

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The 2015 Sons and Daughters of Douglass Reunion



 (On the slide shows, make sure to click on the audio speaker on the screen...on the videos, click on the center arrow to play the video)

A SLIDE SHOW OF THE DOUGLASS REUNION PICNIC (make sure the audio speaker on the screen is clicked on):


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)

A SLIDE SHOW OF THE ALUMNI BARGE TRIP ON THE KINGSPORT RESERVOIR, BAYS MOUNTAIN PARK (make sure the audio speaker on the screen is clicked on):

AN INTRO TO THE BARGE TRIP (please forgive the audio...the wind was blowing.  Wait for the voices to come up):

(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)

SOME FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT THE BARGE TRIP AND THE KINGSPORT RESERVOIR (please forgive the audio... the wind was blowing.  Wait for the voices to come up):

(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)

A SLIDE SHOW OF THE DOUGLASS REUNION DANCE AT THE ELKS CLUB (make sure the audio speaker on the screen is clicked on):


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)

DOUGLASS ALUMNI "GOT TO GIVE IT UP (Yes, that is Calvin singing along with Marvin Gaye while shooting this video, when "Got to Give It Up" comes up about 40 seconds into this video... Hey y'all, it's one of my favorite songs.... I can sing falsetto, too.... and Marvin sings in my key....what can I say?  I've "got to give it up:"

(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)

A SLIDE SHOW OF THE DOUGLASS ALUMNI MEMORIAL SERVICE (make sure the audio speaker on the screen is clicked on):


(Just "X" out of the ad in the video--you can also click the video full screen)


(make sure the audio speaker on the screen is clicked on)



                                                       “Let’s Stay Together”

Before I begin, allow me to thank all of the spouses of our Douglass Alumni.  You have attended our biennial reunion every other year.  You listen to us tell the same ole stories and you pretend you have never heard the stories.  Your being here really adds a lot to the reunion.  Thank you for coming to celebrate with us.
A special thanks to Calvin Sneed, our webmaster.  When I travel around the country and talk about this alumni association, I refer my colleagues to our website.  After reading our website, they marvel and the work you have done here. I offer this caution.  Don’t get so busy making widgets that you forget what an outstanding widget factory we have created.  This alumni association can become even greater than it is today if we work together.

We are here this afternoon to memorialize former schoolmates and friends whom we have lost since our last reunion in 2013.  Thank you for allowing me to be the speaker for this occasion.  I hope that I am inspired to say something that causes you to bring our former schoolmates and friends back into the forefront of our minds.
Perhaps, not all the people we memorialize today lived perfect lives.  But, like you and I. they tried to live their lives full of hope while overcoming the struggles they faced.  As we think about the lives of our deceased friends, some who left us far too soon, we are led to think of our own lives.  As we grow older, we are forced to contemplate questions of our own mortality. 
The last class graduated from DHS on June 7, 1966.  If you’re counting, that was 49 years ago.   This weekend, 49 years after the closing of DHS, you and I continue to celebrate the traditions and legacy that was Douglass School. 
What better place to have a memorial service for our schoolmates and friends than here in this building.  Here, where an underpaid faculty and staff embraced us with their warmth and protection.  Our faculty believed, as Dr. King, that “crooked places can be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord can be revealed” to all of us.
I want to pause here and mention the recent passing of former Kingsport school superintendent Dana Swick.  One winter the newspaper coined the phrase “Never to slick for Swick.”  We honor his long tenure here in Kingsport as an educator.  But, wouldn’t you love to have been a fly on the wall when he met his maker.  How did he explain the fact that African American men and women teaching black children were paid far less than white teachers who instructed white children in the same school system.  Don’t  you wonder how he explained why little black boys and girls received outdated and second hand textbooks and fewer educational resources here at Douglass.  (I regret his passing.  I will forgive Dr. Swick for his transgressions because that is what we’ve been taught to do.  But, I’ll never forget what he did to us..
I want to express my appreciation to those who had a hand in renovating this building.  It continues to be the common denominators for the collective memories of African American men and women who grew up in our hometown.
It was here, when this structure was called Douglass High School that--
o   We first met individuals who became friends for life.  In fact, some of our classmates met their spouses in this building.
o   Most of us learned to read and to write. 
o   Learned to play together and to pray together.  (Am I the only one who remembers Ms. Bean’s Wednesday afternoon Bible class?)
o   We celebrated Tiger and Tigerette athletic victories and championships in this building.
o   We were inspired to live up to our fullest potential here.
You know, the people in our community loved this old building just as they loved each other.  That was the impetus for the creation of the Sons and Daughters Alumni Association years ago.  This old building (and the ole Douglass building on East Sevier) have been the glue that has held us and our alumni association together for many, many years.  Some of the sons and daughters of our founding members are here today.  We’re thankful for the leadership and the vision your parents shared with us.
Think about another point for a moment.
Where ever life has taken us--You and I will forever be bound together by a common experience—growing up in Kingsport and our education at Douglass School.  Perhaps you didn’t attend our alma mater.  Perhaps your mother or father did.  Maybe it was a grandparent or another relative.  Perhaps you grew up in a Kingsport neighborhood and attended Dobyns Bennett High School for your entire school years.  Whatever the case may be, you are part of the Douglass legacy and we claim you. 
Douglass alumni, living and deceased are evidence that African American students from Kingsport, Tennessee have the intellectual ability and desire to be responsible, independent, and successful citizens.  That was Frederick Douglass’ chief message to us years ago.  And, that’s why we’re all sons and daughters of Douglass!
I am reluctant to talk about the declining number of alumni from our alma mater.  Our numbers gets smaller each year.  Someone might even ask:  Why—if our numbers are so small now— why should we continue to have Douglass School reunions?   I want to answer that question.  Reunions allow us to keep our remembrances alive.  Reunions allow us to stay together.   
You and I can be big supporters of the DB Indians.  But, the Douglass reunion honors the vision of the women and men who founded this association.  This reunion demonstrates that the African-American citizens in Kingsport haven't given up on their blackness.

We haven’t given up on the things we learned from Malcolm, Martin, Maya, or Rosa Parks. 

We haven’t given up on mass choirs and the singing of Donnie McClurkin, Shirley Caesar, Kirk Franklin or Aretha Franklin.
We haven’t given up on playing bingo or playing bid whist as we slam those cards on the table.  
We haven’t given up on reading Jet, Ebony, Essence, or Black Enterprise magazines.

And we have not and cannot give up on our youth in this community.  They still need role models as we attempt to make a way for them.  That’s what this reunion is all about.     
The Douglass Reunions force us to face the fact that we have lost many schoolmates.  But, never forget:  WE are all survivors. 
We survived once a week chapel in the auditorium, where we learned how to behave formally and to follow protocol.  We learned proper table manners in the cafeteria where home cooked meals were served.  (What was the cost of a carton of milk?)
Many of our alumni—both living and deceased-- were baby boomers.  No other generation has been like us.  We believe in equality and a sense of permanency.  We were the ones who were going to change the world – make love and not war. We believed we would have seasons in the sun – forever.
Now as an adult, I realize how many of lives lessons our teachers taught us.  Mr. Gill, Mr. Dobbins, Mrs. Cox, Mrs. Shannon, Mr. Young, Mrs. Sneed, and all the others who I won’t mention here.  These role models and teachers dreamed bigger dreams for us than we could ever dream for ourselves. They expected us to excel.  (“Not to Equal; but to Excel).  They wanted us to gain our rightful place in God’s world.   

However, they couldn’t teach us a vital lesson. It was the most important lesson of all.  They failed to remind us that Life does not go on forever.  You and I will not live on this earth forever.  Someday, we, too, will die and ascend to meet our maker.

Someone once referred to this the potato salad lesson.    

Like our schoolmates, you and I will all pass on someday.  Friends and family will gather during a beautiful service.  They will say nice things about us.  They will talk about the things we accomplished in life.  Then, everyone will go to the church basement to eat potato salad. 

For, as it is written in Psalm 30:  Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning.  That passage has a special meaning to me: 

Every morning I have two choices: continue to sleep with my dreams or wake up and chase my dreams.    When you wake up each morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love... Recognize that we can still have joy in our lives even in the midst of trying circumstances. 

The Apostle Paul said it much better than me in Ephesians 4:1.  He urges us to live a life worthy of the calling you have received from Jesus Christ.

Many of us are dealing with the reality of growing older.  Should we be depressed and downhearted about our own mortality?  Absolutely not.  

You and I are Survivors.

We rode our bicycles all over town without helmets, endured second-hand smoke and the odors from our industrial plants; (You know you’re from KPT if you don’t recall smelling the odor generated by the Mead Corp);

The boys survived Mr. Baylor’s shop class and never cut off our fingers.  The girls managed Home Economics with Mrs. Shannon without sewing their fingers together.  

As youngsters, we went barefoot in the summer.  We stepped on rusty nails, climbed trees, and never caught hepatitis. We survived riding in cars without car seats or seat belts.  We survived waiting for radio station WLAC in Nashville to play our favorite song on the radio at night since we could get that music locally.

You and I are certainly survivors.

We survived cowboys and Indians on Clay Hill and hiding go seek in and around the coal boxes in the projects. 

We survived walking through six inches of water in the railroad underpass as we walked to school from “the highway.”  We survived crossing Sullivan Street in Eastman traffic with a student safety patrols:  Can you imagine doing that today – putting a white belt on a twelve year old and telling them to go out and stop traffic on Sullivan Street during rush hour? 

Some of us survived the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. We have survived tornadoes, floods, the tragedy of 911, and international terrorism.   Perhaps, some have survived failed marriages, broken relationships and broken promises. We have survived unemployment, and some of us are dealing with serious personal illnesses.

We have survived raising our children and grandchildren.  Some of us have survived the heartbreak of laying parents or a spouse to rest.  Some of us have survived the unthinkable of burying our own children. 

Through all of these challenges, we’ve continued along life’s journey.  We have stayed together as a community.  We’ve been committed to each other.   We have gone through some of the same difficult and sad experiences. 

We’ve demonstrated “friendship” toward each other and to those who preceded us in death.  Friendship and Love for One Another.  That should be our legacy as we memorialize our deceased loved ones today. 

The poet John Dunne once wrote this famous line – “Every man’s death is diminishing to me for I am part of mankind – therefore never ask for whom the bell tolls – it tolls for thee.”

This line suggest that part of us is taken away when we lose a loved one.  To lose a dear friend, a classmate, or a family member is to lose a little of yourself.

But, through all of this, God continues to bless us every day with his grace.  How blessed we are to be able to hug a former classmate or to hold our children and grandchildren in our arms.  Some of us are still able to tell our elderly parents, and other family members, friends, and loved one how much they have meant to us over the years.    

Embrace your friends, love your neighbors, and forgive your enemies.  I believe this is the heritage that our deceased school mates and mentors have left us. 
Our schoolmates might say to us today enjoy one another.  Enjoy the time you have left in this world for you may not have tomorrow.  Continue the journey and let us, the living alumni of Douglass High School, stay together.

Thank you for allowing me to be here today.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Thanks for a Great Douglass Reunion!


I wish to thank everyone who was able to make this year's reunion a great success. We were small in number this year, but we were still able to meet and have a great time. A lot of the people present said that they enjoyed the picnic and the barge ride this year.

I am glad that we were able to change things this year in hoping to draw people to the reunion. 

As always, we are open to suggestions, and if you have any for the reunion please send them to us. The mailing address is:
Sons and Daughters of Douglass
301 Louis Street
Suite 104
Kingsport, TN 37660

Also, all those who attended this years reunion would you please send us your updated mailing address? We meant to have a sign in book but we forgot. Also, any one else that has a new mailing address, would you send it to us we are still trying to get an updated mailing list.

Douglas S. Releford

Friday, July 3, 2015

How to Avoid Shark Attacks: Beach Do's and Don'ts

This video has gone viral..  I share, with some advice of my own...

1.  Do not shoot video with your phone while driving.. it's considered texting and driving.   If you don't hit something, it will get you a big fat ticket.

But enjoy the video anyway: